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Report Determines the Gowanus is Filthy

A report released today by the EPA determined that there are at least a dozen pollutants in the canal.

Today is the day residents and stakeholders finally find out just how polluted the Gowanus Canal really is.

After nearly a year since the Superfund designation, the Environmental Protection Agency has released a "remedial investigation" report on the canal, confirming the widespread existence of more than a dozen contaminants in the waterway.

The 144-page report identified the sources of the contamination and characteristics of the canal that will influence future plans for the canal's cleanup. Additionally, an accompanying human and ecological risk assessment established that exposure to some of the pollutants in the canal pose a threat to not just the environment, but also to human health.

“The findings of the investigation of the Gowanus Canal confirmed that contamination of the urban waterway is widespread and may threaten people’s health, particularly if they eat fish or crabs from the canal or have repeated contact with the canal water or sediment,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck in a statement.

“The next step is the review of options for cleaning up the Gowanus, so we can move ahead with a full-scale cleanup of the canal that will result in a revitalized  urban waterway,” she said.  

The report determined that pollution in the canal was not only caused by past industrial activities, but also by uncontrolled sewage, storm water and other discharges that continue to seep into the waterway.

Among the pollutants found in the sediment and canal water were mercury, lead, copper and polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, a suspected carcinogen. Though some contaminants were also found in the air surrounding the canal area, none were found at levels of unacceptable risk to human health.

Copies of the report are available at the Gowanus Superfund EPA website and at the of the Brooklyn Public Library.

Christos Tsiamis, the EPA's Gowanus Canal Project Manager, will be present the findings of the report at a public meeting on the evening of Feb. 23 at , Samuel Mills Sprole School.

Now that the remedial investigation has concluded, the EPA’s next move will be a feasibility study outlining all of the options for dealing with the canal’s cleanup.

Before actual cleanup of the canal can begin, there are several issues that must be addressed, including removing debris and sunken vessels near Fourth and Sixth streets.

Andrew February 02, 2011 at 08:44 PM
So, this means The Yard will never re-open, right? Damn, that place was awesome.
Georgia Kral February 02, 2011 at 09:38 PM
Yes, don't hold your breath on that one...
woodendesigner February 02, 2011 at 10:56 PM
For more of a visual of the kind of pollution there is a video from a while back that pretty much hammers it home. http://gothamist.com/2010/03/24/video_gowanus.php . I'm sure a lot of what this report says is not surprising to most.
Bob Satuloff February 02, 2011 at 11:27 PM
It would have been shocking if the Gowanus had been given a clean bill of health. How could it have been otherwise?
Anthony February 02, 2011 at 11:29 PM
The canal has been filthy since the 1800s. Why would we expect anything different in 2011?
CARMEN February 03, 2011 at 12:05 AM
This is no surprise to those of us that grew in the neighborhood. What a pity it has taken so long to get to this point. We could have written the report 20 years ago for free.

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